Directed By: Harold Ramis
Starring: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow
Tag line: "New York's most powerful gangster is about to get in touch with his feelings"
Trivia: Robert De Niro suggested Chazz Palminteri for the role of Primo Sidone, having worked together on A Bronx Tale
What impressed me immediately about Harold Ramis’ 1999 comedy, Analyze This, was how it didn't shy away from the criminal lifestyle. During the opening scene, mobster Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro) launches into a colorful narration about a failed 1957 meeting between the heads of all the “families”, and the sequence is so well-handled, it might have you wondering, albeit only for a moment, if you're watching Analyze This or The Sopranos.
Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) has it all. Along with his thriving psychiatric practice, he's about to be married to the charming and beautiful Laura (Lisa Kudrow). But his newest patient, gangland boss Paul Vitti, threatens to turn his world upside down. Vitti is feeling the pressure of heading up a criminal empire, and it’s become more than he can handle. That’s where Dr. Sobel comes in. With the good doctor’s help, Vitti hopes to regain the confidence that made him a top man in the organization, but can Dr. Sobel ignore the pangs of his own conscience and treat a noted mobster?
As good as Billy Crystal is, playing a mild-mannered suburbanite thrust unexpectedly into the world of organized crime, Analyze This would be nothing without Robert DeNiro. His Vitti is a basket case with a bad temper, a man prone to violent outbursts, many of which are hilarious (during one therapy session, Dr. Sobel tells Vitti to hit a pillow, as a means of releasing his anger. Instead, he pulls a gun and blows the pillow away). Now, we’ve seen DeNiro play this type of character before in some of the greatest gangster movies ever made (The Untouchables, Goodfellas), and occasionally, we've even chuckled a bit at his exploits, yet always nervously, as a release of sorts from the violence and high drama filling the screen. In Analyze This, it’s all done for laughs, and DeNiro’s experience with this kind of role brings a level of credibility to the film. When Paul Vitti is nearly gunned down while leaving a restaurant, a shooting that claimed the life of his trusted friend, Dominic (Joseph Rigano), he begins having a nervous breakdown. Vitti realizes he doesn’t want to die, but can’t just walk away from ‘the life’ either, especially since his old rival, Primo Sidone (Chazz Plaminteri), is the one moving against him. It’s under these circumstances that his sessions with Dr. Sobel begin, and the various doctor/patient exchanges the two have are a riot (my favorite being Vitti’s reaction to Sobel's theory he might be suffering from an “oedipal complex”).
An effective marriage of comedy and La Cosa Nostra, Analyze This is a very entertaining movie.